Sri Aurobindo was renowned and important personality in the history of the Indian resurgence and Indian nationalism. Aurobindo had a versatile brilliance. Aurobindo Ghosh was a great poet, a thoughtful thinker, a distinguished metaphysician, a great prophet and a passionate patriot. Aurobindo Ghosh wrote effective texts that represented the crystallization of the new and rising soul of India and given a spiritual message for humankind.
Political career of Aurobindo was from 1906 to 1910. Though, he had been active behind the scene surveying, organizing and supporting the nationalist cause, ever since his return to India, especially during his trips to Bengal. This period of his activity from 1906-1910 visualized as a complete change of India’s political scene. Before Aurobindo began publishing his visions, the Congress was an annual debating society whose rare victories had been instances of the empire taking a favourable view to its petitions. By the time, Aurobindo left the field, the ideal of political independence had been firmly rooted into the minds of people, and nineteen years later, it became the official saying of the Congress.
This change was affected by the beginning of the belligerent nationalist thought of Lokmanya Tilak who declared that swaraj was his birth right and Bipin Chandra Pal who demanded “complete autonomy” from Britain. However, none went as far as Aurobindo in pronouncing the legality and necessity of complete independence. He “based his claim for freedom for India on the inherent right to freedom, not on any charge of misgovernment or oppression”. He wrote that “Political freedom is the life-breath of a nation. To attempt social reform, educational reform, industrial expansion, the moral improvement of the race without aiming first and foremost at political freedom, is the very height of ignorance and futility. The primary requisite for national progress, national reform, is the habit of free and healthy national thought and action which is impossible in a state of servitude.”
Aurobindo’s huge, complex, and sometimes chaotic literary work includes philosophical speculation, poetry, plays, and other works.
His magnificent works are:
- The Life Divine (1939)
- The Human Cycle (1949)
- The Ideal of Human Unity (1949)
- On the Veda (1956)
- Collected Poems and Plays (1942)
- Essays on the Gita (1922)
- The Synthesis of Yoga (1948)
- Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol (1950)
The Life Divine, his greatest writing, is a mammoth work in which he made an original contribution in the field of philosophical thought of the modern world. In nature it is at once visionary and revelatory. The book enlightens the different processes of Sri Aurobindo’s conception of the spiritual evolution.
Aurobindo was heavily influenced by the western philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941), and he created an amalgamation of Bergson’s evolutionary view and the Upanisads. According to Aurobindo, no evolution is possible without involution, which involves the succession of the divine to the world of matter. The Eternal Spirit is beyond all description, but it descends into the lower realms of being and then by evolution ascends until it returns to its source. This transition from the Eternal Spirit to the multiplicity of the phenomenal world is what Aurobindo calls Supermind.
Political work of Aurobindo revealed diverse influences. Among these, the Indian tradition of perfectionism in philosophy have captivated him the most. The great European theorists from Homer to Go’ethe influenced him greatly during his formative period and the study of Geeta, Upanishads and Vedanta had a profound impact on his political thinking. Romain Rolland stated that Sri Aurobindo was “the highest synthesis of the genius of Asia”. He integrated the materialist trend in western philosophy with the idealist tradition in Indian philosophy. Vedantic philosophy as advocated by Ramakrishna and Vivekanand also influenced Aurobindo’s thinking.
He was also motivated by the significant vitality and diversity of the lndian intellectual tradition. He supposed that the writings of the Vedantic sages and the Buddha reflect the prodigy of the yoga Indian mind. However, later on, according to Aurobindo, the Indian philosophical tradition became narrow in viewpoint and lost its enthusiasm and vitality. As against this, western philosophy managed to retain its dynamism and continued to grow. Aurobindo wanted to combine the best elements of the Indian and western philosophical tradition.
The contribution of Sri Aurobindo to modern Indian political thought may be categorized under four titles:
- His concept of spiritual nationalism and divinity of motherland.
- His exposition of the ideal of complete freedom from foreign rule.
- His contribution to the theory of boycott and passive resistance.
- His vision of the high role that India was destined to play in world affairs and his ideal of human unity.
The foundation of political philosophy of Aurobindo was his notion of spiritual nationalism and the mysticism of the motherland. Aurobindo offered an element of spiritualism to nationalism.
His writings in this period must be visualized against the political background of India in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. His objective was to mobilize the people for the fight against the foreign ruler and his ultimate goal was full freedom for the country. Aurohindo’s thoughts in the later phase, i.e. from 1910 onwards reveal clearly the need for humanity to return to the spiritual motivations.
Aurobindo’s Views on the Indian National Congress: When Aurobindo returned from England, he perceived the political scene and expressed his views through his literatures in journals like ‘Bande Mataram’. He critically appraised the working of the Congress organization and its leadership at that time.
He criticised the Congress on four grounds:
- Its aims and objectives.
- Its composition.
- The motives of the leaders.
- The methods adopted by them for the realisation of their aims and objectives.
Concept of Nation and Theory of Spiritual Nationalism: Aurobindo’s notion of nation was extremely influenced by Bankimchandra, a great Bengali novelist. He believed that the nation is not just a piece of land nor a mass of human beings. It is neither a figure of speech nor the creation of mind. It is something more than a geographical unit or a figment of people’s imagination. Therefore, his concept of nation is thoughtful and very different from the commonly held patriotic notions about the nation. According to him, India was like his mother and hence, he was highly dedicated to her. He adored India as a Mother Goddess, and advised the young patriots to work for their nation which is their mother. He believed that the freedom of the motherland is the most urgent duty of her children for which they must be ready to sacrifice even their lives.
To summarize, Sri Aurobindo emerged as distinctive player in spreading political thought in India. It is said that none of the intellectuals had explored the nature of freedom more profoundly and passionately than Sri Aurobindo. In his writing, ‘The longing to be free’, he explained so nicely that masses was influenced by his great opinion. Sri Aurobindo looked at the concept of freedom first from the perspective of an innovative political leader.
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